It is hard to overstate the benefits of travel. Expanding one’s horizons, comfort zones, and interests is a vital part of the human experience. The multitude of cultures and histories available in this world will endlessly astound those who dig deep into its richness. In the ever-globalizing world, barriers are more fluid than ever before. Today, you can tap into some of this cultural kaleidoscope without even having to leave your home state. Dance lessons allow you to experience a taste of far off lands. Let the beat be your vessel and the movements be your passport.
Flamenco is a rhythmic and proud style of movement that originated in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. The style is characterized by intense, even violent, movements of the arms and legs in time with guitar music. The guitar is the focal point of the music, and flamenco guitar has developed a strong following, even removed from the dancing. Like the guitar style, speed is a hallmark of the action, with precisely timed jabbing foot-stomps and theatrical arm gestures (along with castanets) providing the drum beat. Flamenco has been exported all over the world, with schools offering flamenco dance lessons from New Zealand to New Mexico. It has also become incredibly popular in East Asia. In fact, there are currently more flamenco academies in Japan than in Spain.
Many people believe that tango, like flamenco, has its roots in Spain. In fact, tango is a quintessentially new world amalgam of African and European styles that borrows more from the Italian immigrant population in Buenos Aires than the established Spanish heritage of Argentina. The style grew, or perhaps erupted, out of the slums of the port cities of Argentina and Uruguay along the Rio de la Plata. In dockside bar rooms and social halls, African candombe practitioners fused with European traditions to form the Tango. Originally, it was looked down on as the province of the working class, but in the 1920s, tango became a full-fledged global craze, with premier Argentinian dance troupes travelling all over Europe and North America spreading the style. If you are ever fortunate enough to visit Montevideo or Buenos Aires, do not miss the chance to watch a tango performance. However, don’t be fooled by the apparent effortlessness of the dancers; take some tango dance lessons to see just how much effort is required.
Perhaps no other dance is as important as a passport or cultural conduit for Americans. Travel restrictions have prevented Americans from visiting Cuba, but rumba dance lessons have brought the style and music across the Florida straits. Similar to the tango, rumba blends European and African traditions for an authentically Cuban dance. Today, thanks to a strong Cuban presence in Miami and musical migration (especially after the film Buena Vista Social Club), more people around the globe are enjoying this island export than ever before.
If you can’t visit in person, travel through dance!